Voters head to polls in metro Atlanta elections; mayoral runoff seems likely

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Voters head to polls in metro Atlanta elections; mayoral runoff seems likely

An earlier version of this blog included an error about Atlanta's first female mayor that has been corrected.

12:55 a.m. It appears City Councilwomen Keisha Lance Bottoms and Mary Norwood will face off in a Dec. 5 runoff in the race for Atlanta mayor.

Neither woman garnered enough votes Tuesday night to win outright. 

11:49 p.m. Peter Aman just took the stand to say a few words. 

"The statement is that we don't know what the hell is going on. So this is neither a concession nor a victory speech," he said. 

He noted that only 21 percent of the votes are in. So what is showing is not a reflection of the outcome, he said. He thanked his family and his campaign team, receiving several hearty rounds of cheers and applause. 

"We're optimistic we'll be in a runoff," he said. He said he was happy that the ideas he championed, such as early childhood development, have taken root in the conversation in the city.

11:36 p.m. Cathy Woolard addressed an enthusiastic group of supporters, thanking them for their hard work just before 11:30. She said it's a school night and she knows people will need to leave. Woolard remained optimistic, stressing that the early numbers don't reflect DeKalb -- and she expects 40 percent of that vote.

Sam Pettaway, supporter of Atlanta mayoral candidate Peter Aman, checks election results on his phone during an election night party held at Hotel Indigo. John Amis

11:27 p.m. The crowd is down to about 40 people at the Aman event, with the majority of them being volunteers. Some took to the microphone to thank everyone. It's that time of the evening when you hear people - knowing that their candidate is lagging - saying things like "the night is still young" and "a lot of votes have yet to be counted."

11:08 p.m. Kwanza Hall, an Atlanta City Councilman, was upbeat Tuesday evening when he arrived at his election party around 10:30 p.m. 

Atlanta mayoral candidate Kwanza Hall and his wife Natalie are greeted by fans and volunteers as their arrive at their election watch party. PHIL SKINNER

“I am feeling great. There’s a lot of positive energy today. We don’t have the big ‘I’s’ with us but we’ve got a lot of the little ‘yous,’ regular people in our community all over the city who have said they love what we stand for and what we are doing and we believe they are going to turn out tonight.” 

Hall said he felt good about his campaign. When asked what he learned about Atlanta while campaigning, Hall, said, “that the city is in desperate need of unity. There is a high number of divisions and segregation and segregation in a variety of ways. Not just race but income inequities. . . There are different Atlantans. Not just the haves and have nots but different perspectives. We need to collaborate, we are bigger than any divisions. ”

With upbeat music playing, supporters dressed cheered loudly when Hall arrived, posed for selfies with Hall and started dancing. 

Rita Davis, who lives in Midtown and is 40 years old, was one of the first to show up to Hall’s election party. Wearing a cherry red dress and silver shoes, she was all smiles.

“His personality and charisma,” said Davis who lives in midtown, and who was volunteered for Hall’s campaign “You can tell he’s never met a stranger. I see him all the time riding my bike and he’s riding his bike. . .And of all of the candidates, I think he has the personal touch. I feel like I could go up to him and ask him a question.”

Mary Norwood gives supporters a double thumbs up making a final appearance at her election night party saying she assumes there will be a runoff. ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton

11:05 p.m. Mary Norwood is calling it a night. She expects to be in the runoff, she said, but she isn't going to pull an all-nighter waiting for Fulton's slow results. "I've got three confirmed appointments starting at 6 a.m.," she said.

"We will all see in the morning what has happened."

10:52 p.m. Keisha Lance Bottoms emerged about 10:40 p.m. to thank her supporters in person. The crowd gave a long and sustained roar. 

Atlanta mayoral candidate Keisha Lance Bottoms greets a supporter after she spoke briefly during her election watch party. Jason Getz

“I know the hour is getting late and we are waiting on returns to come in as you all are,” she said. “I am a loss for words. This is incredible.”

She said she wouldn’t give a speech for now but said she would return.

10:43 p.m. Ceasar Mitchell just took the stage at the Park Tavern, where supporters have gathered for his election night watch party, to thank everyone and encourage them to hang in. 

Supporters dance during an election party for Atlanta mayoral candidate Ceasar Mitchell at Park Tavern. Branden Camp

"The results are not in yet," he said. "It's very early on."
The energetic crowd has been dancing the night away for much of the night and having so much fun that their candidate joked the event might run the risk of violating the city's noise ordinance.
Mitchell began his remarks by saluting his wife, Tiffany: "She is a wonderful, incredible woman. Thank you so much for being the rock of our family."
When Mitchell arrived a few hours ago, he said that regardless of the outcome, he is looking forward to spending more time with his family. But his more recent comments hinted that he is ready for yet more campaigning.
"The night is young. We feel good, we feel strong. Let's continue to eat, drink and be merry," he said. "I'm encouraged. I'm excited. I'm excited about this city. I'm excited about what we're going to do together. I love all of you. I love all that you stand for. I love all that you believe in. We are a city of people, not things. We are a city of dreams, not just ideas." The crowd erupted into cheers of "I'm with Ceasar!" He responded "We are with you."
Then the DJ started spinning tunes again: Sister Sledge's "We Are Family."

Atlanta mayoral candidate Peter Aman takes questions from the media during an election night party held at Hotel Indigo. John Amis

10:42 p.m. Crowd thinning at Peter Aman event. So is the enthusiasm, as early results show him lagging. It's gotten to that part of the night when many of those remaining are clustered around the big TV, awaiting new results. Aman is expected to address his supporters within the next half hour.

10:40 p.m. Audible groan at Six Feet Under as Ceasar Mitchell shows up on the TV screen in the third spot, where Cathy Woolard was previously shown. Starting to thin out here as well.

10:31 p.m. Mayor Kasim Reed entered the Bottoms headquarters about 10 p.m. He said he didn’t want to “pre-judge” the finalists in the race, but he said of all the candidates in the race “I don’t think anyone can beat (Bottoms)” in the runoff. 

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed greets supporters at the election watch party for Atlanta mayoral candidate Keisha Lance Bottoms. Jason Getz

When I ran against Mary Norwood, Mary was up on me probably 10 to 12 points,” Reed said. “She’s not going to wake up, up on Keisha, by any significant amount. It’s going to be a radically different race than my race.”
Reed narrowly defeated Norwood a 2009 runoff. 
“They’re going to be starting off, in my opinion, relatively close,” Reed said of Bottoms and Norwood. “That wasn’t my position at all.”
Reed also defended his bare-knuckled tactics toward candidates who have been critical of his administration saying he was setting the record straight from their attacks. Asked his plans tomorrow and whether he would be on the stump, Reed said he plans to take his daughter to school Wednesday. 
“I’m going to wake up in the morning and take my daughter to school,” he said. “I think that this race, if things hold as they are right now, the folks that are getting ready to be in the runoff gotta be up and go.”

9:56 p.m. Voter turnout may been fairly dismal in the election Tuesday, but Cathy Woolard was "feeling great" about the amount of voters she said casts ballots in her favor. 

Atlanta mayoral candidate Cathy Woolard cheers as she sees the early returns flash up on the TV at Six Feet Under. Steve Schaefer

After arriving to emphatic cheers at her packed viewing party at Six Feet Under, Woolard said her grassroots campaign has shown her it takes "great people to get a big job done."
Faced with the possibility of finding herself in a runoff at the end of the night, Woolard did not seem unsettled.
"We will get up late tomorrow and run real hard for another 30 days," she said. But if the results are not in her favor, she "may or may not" support someone else. 
"I believe the voters need to decide," Woolard said, adding that she will continue "fighting for ATL" and her goals of affordability, transportation and livability. 
"The movement will carry on," Woolard said.

Mayoral candidate Peter Aman has Kathy Barshay's support.

9:46 p.m. Kathy Barshay, 56, who lives near Chastain Park, was among the dozens of people supporting Peter Aman at his headquarters at the Hotel Indigo in Atlanta. At 9:40 p.m. the crowd was buzzing happily. Lots of smiles, lots of hope. Barshay called Aman, "the most qualified, competent, ethical non-career politician in the race." She added of the former Atlanta chief operating officer, "Economically he knows how to manage money." She also said she was "tired of city corruption" and thought he was the best candidate to confront it.

Mary Norwood told supporters to get ready for "midnight coffee." ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton

9:42 p.m. Mary Norwood gave brief remarks to a crowded room of hundreds of supporters in Buckhead, joking that if returns continue to crawl in she would have “midnight coffee” with her voters. 
“Stay tuned,” she said, adding that her supporters should prepare themselves for a Dec. 5 runoff.
“I want to address all of the issues I have heard are important to all of our voters all around town ... Mary will once again be everywhere in the city.”

People starting to file in at the Keisha Lance Bottoms party.

8:56 p.m. Marva Lewis, the chief of staff for Keisha Lance Bottoms’ campaign, greeted the crowd about 8:45 p.m. She said the staff were scrambling, crunching numbers and putting in calls. She didn’t offer any results, but she said the campaign staff is upbeat. 
“We are running about 100 miles per hour, and we are excited,” she said. 
“Who is going to be the next mayor of Atlanta?” Lewis asked the crowd, which responded with a hearty, “Keisha!”

Bottoms is upstairs. She's not yet made an appearance at her event.

8:55 p.m. Ceasar Mitchell just arrived to his election night watch party at the Park Tavern in Midtown, and said regardless of outcome he is looking forward to taking some time with his family after being so consumed with the campaign. "We might even take our kids out of school and let them play hooky," he joked. "Don't tell anybody that!"

8:43 p.m. Fulton County Elections Director Richard Barron said about 130,000 people voted in the county, with about 88,000 of those votes coming on election day. Turnout was slow and steady, he said, then surged in the evening. There are nearly 641,000 registered voters in the county, putting turnout at about 20 percent countywide.

Barron said one precinct had minor issues in the morning that required voters to vote provisionally for about 20 minutes. Otherwise, he said, "it was pretty quiet."

Brelynn Hunt and Felicity Swindell show support for Kwanza Hall

8:42 p.m. Brelynn Hunt, Miss Black Atlanta 2017, and Felicity Swindell, Miss Black Metro Atlanta, arrive at Kwanza Hall’s election party. “He is an advocate for the student movement,” said Swindell, a student at Clark Atlanta University.

8:40 p.m. At the Keisha Lance Bottoms party at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Atlanta, the crowd started to filter into the room not long after polls closed at 8 p.m.

Linda Roberts of northwest Atlanta wore a white Keisha Lance Bottoms t-shirt and a baseball cap with an American flag. 

“We’re very positive,” Roberts said, smiling, when asked how she felt the night will go. Roberts said she was drawn to Bottoms, her up-by-the-bootstraps bio growing up in southwest Atlanta to rise into a legal career and city councilwoman. 

Sonja McCrary, also of northwest Atlanta, said displacement of senior citizens because of rising rents and property values was a top issue for her in the race. She said she was drawn to Bottoms because of her background in law as well and because she’s the mother of four. 

Both Roberts and McCrary are grandmothers and creating a city of opportunity for kids were key factors in their vote. 

“The future of our grandkids is going to be in the next mayor’s hands,” she said.

8 p.m. The polls in metro Atlanta have officially closed. Please visit myAJC.com for election results. 

7 p.m. Polls have closed for most of metro Atlanta. Polling locations in Fulton County and the city of Atlanta are open an extra hour until 8 p.m. Any voter in line when polls close at 7 p.m. or 8 p.m. can still cast their ballots.

6:20 p.m. Shortly before 6 p.m. another robocall purportedly from the Pastor Mitzi Bickers went out imploring people to go to the polls. 

It was at least the second robocall widely broadcast form a person purporting to be Bickers. 

“If you don’t vote, you don’t count, and if you don’t count, you can’t complain,” the woman said in a message on Tuesday. “Please call a relative, please call a neighbor or a friend and get to the polls and vote. Your vote is your voice. This is Pastor Mitzi Bickers. God bless you.”

Last weekend, a woman who identified herself as “Pastor Mitzi Bickers” was heard in a robocall with an innocuous message for residents touched many parts of the city, from southwest Atlanta to Virginia-Highland.

Mitzi Bickers, a key figure in the Atlanta City Hall bribery scheme, has allegedly sent two robocalls in the Atlanta mayor’s race. (AJC file photo)

In the recording, the woman encouraged residents to “vote the full ballot.”

Bickers is a subject in the federal corruption investigation at Atlanta City Hall. She worked for as the city’s director of human services from 2010 to 2013 after helping Kasim Reed when his first run for mayor 2009.

On Tuesday, a former city of Atlanta worker who used to work for Bickers, pleaded guilty to a single count of trying to intimidate a federal witness. Shandarrick Barnes admitted to throwing a brick through the window of city contractor Elvin “E.R.” Mitchell Jr., the government’s star witness in the bribery investigation.

5:30 p.m. Cars or buses plastered with a candidate’s face circled the streets in southwest Atlanta, while folks near at least three polling precincts waved a sign declaring: “Vote the black slate.” Flyers were distributed atop cars parked near Metropolitan Library to reinforce that message.

Robert Harris, a 68-year-old retiree, said he voted for Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms because the city desperately needs a “fresh face and a fresh start.” He said he’s fully prepared for a Bottoms matchup in December against Councilwoman Mary Norwood in a runoff.

“It could be a replay,” he said, referring to a 2009 race between Norwood and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed. “But it might not. That’s the thing — so much of this depends on turnout.”

Turnout will be key in several races. In DeKalb County, 71 people had voted on the various sales tax referendums by 5 p.m. at the Glenhaven polling place in DeKalb County.

Back in Atlanta, Wanda Breach, a 71-year-old retiree, entered her polling place wracked with indecision. 

“There’s too many candidates. I changed my mind twice this morning,” she said. “I just had to come and vote, but I am still up in the air.”

Breach, who is African-American, said she’s looking primarily at the experience of each candidate.

“White mayor, black mayor — it doesn’t matter to me,” she said. “Neither does party affiliation. Listen, I’m not enjoying my president. But what matters in this race is who can do this job.”

4:30 p.m. After casting his own ballot Tuesday morning, former Fulton Chair John Eaves set out to meet voters in several precinct areas across Atlanta. The mayoral candidate thanked those who voted and encouraged others to do so before 8 p.m., while simultaneously taking note of the substantial dropoff in voter participation since the presidential election a year ago.

Atlanta mayoral candidate John Eaves makes his way to a candidate forum, Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017, in Atlanta. BRANDEN CAMP/SPECIAL

The “exceptionally low” turnout renders previous polling irrelevant, Eaves said, adding that he felt “cautiously optimistic” about his shot at continuing in the race. “I’ve worked hard every day, articulated a positive message and talked about what I plan to do for the city,” Eaves said. “I hope it resonates enough to get me in the runoff.” Win or lose, Eaves acknowledges that the race helped him build name recognition and resources that will keep him competitive with other candidates in the future — though he stopped short of saying what political endeavors may await.

The campaign has taught Eaves about the city’s “tremendous promise and undeniable problems,” he said.Eaves contends that serious issues, such as housing affordability and transportation, won’t be dealt with unless the right person gets elected. But he wouldn’t speculate on who he may support if the race doesn't go his way, remaining hopeful that at the end of the day Atlanta will “vote on substance.”

“The low turnout is so low, all projections are off,” he said.

4:27 p.m. Barbara Moore, 79, is retired and lives in Brookhaven and said: “We just had the SPLOST to vote on and that’s very important: Where are we going to spend our money? Because our schools need it.”

Brookhaven resident Barbara Moore hopes Atlanta voters will look past candidates' race in the mayoral election.

She is not an Atlanta voter, but when asked whether she thought race played a role in the Atlanta mayor election, she said: “I hope to goodness not. I pray it has not. We’ve worked to overcome racial discrimination at my school.” Moore volunteers at her local high school.

4:09 p.m. A proposed sales tax increase brought some DeKalb voters to the polls. Others said it was important to make their voices heard.

Lynn Johnston, 86, said the DeKalb County sales tax issue is what brought him to the polls in Brookhaven Tuesday.
"I think that's something that needs to be done," the retired insurance agent said. "We need to go ahead and do the work that's outlined."

Jeff Rice, a 37-year-old medical device salesman, said he voted in DeKalb County Tuesday because it's his "civic duty, basically."

"There's something on the ballot, and I want to be part of it," he said. "I want to put my opinion in there."

Rice said he was "somewhat educated" on the sales tax issue that dominated the ballot. He said the issue was important because it represented local tax dollars.

"You can't complain about it if you don't vote for it," he said. "I want to have a say in it."

Mallory Cary, a 24-year-old graduate student, said there wasn't any particular issue that made her want to cast her ballot in Brookhaven Tuesday. Rather, it's the whole political climate.

Mallory Cary is unhappy with "the direction of the politics in the country right now."

"I don't like the direction of the politics in the country right now," she said. "I'm trying to do my part to be more informed."

Cary said she thought it was important to be involved, even if she didn't have strong feelings about what she was voting on.
"We can't keep doing the same thing," she said.

William Tinkler, 66, said he thought the DeKalb County ballot was "very long" for having just three measures related to taxes.

Tinkler, an attorney who lived in Brookhaven, said he was voting "because there is an election today."

"I wanted to make my voice heard. I always try to vote," he said. "Given the current political climate, it's important to get out and vote regardless of what's on the ballot."

POST-ELECTION COVERAGE: Join the AJC’s Ernie Suggs and Condace Pressley of Kiss 104.1/News 95.5 & AM 750 WSB for a special Facebook Live on Thursday at 11 a.m. 

3:16 p.m. James Wentz, a Midtown Atlanta resident, age 44, works as an assistant principal at Riverside Intermediate in Cobb County.

Midtown Atlanta resident James Wentz wants to see more transparency from City Hall.

Wentz is supporting Mary Norwood for mayor because of her support for the LGBTQ community and her pledge to make city hall more transparent and accountable, especially after the bribery scandal. 

“I just want them to keep pushing to be more inclusive, especially with the police force,” he said. Since the presidential election, “it seems like everyone is angry and people are becoming more intolerant.” 

Wentz was also concerned about housing affordability, noting that his rent in Midtown went up $200 this year. 

He said he doesn’t care about he race of the next mayor as long as he or she is “inclusive and understanding of all cultures.”

3:04 p.m. Brian Thorpe, 46, Ormewood Park, Photographer/ mechanic voted Tuesday afternoon at Ormewood Park Presbyterian Church with his young daughter in tow. 

Brian Thorpe thinks Atlanta has a long way to go when it comes to being "a livable city."

“I want to see the city keep improving and going in a good direction. It seems like there is a lot of room for improvement. It definitely hasn’t fulfilled its potential as a city and a livable city," He said. His hot button issues are transportation, infrastructure, roads and cycling safety. "We like to bike as much as we can. I don’t think cars, as much as we all depend on them, are the future. I don’t think spending money widening roads is helping. It is just encouraging more people to drive." 

Thorpe, a Florida native who has lived in Atlanta for 12 years, said he wants the next mayor to be whoever is going to do the best for the city. "(The candidates) say a whole lot of stuff — stuff you know they can’t do — you just hope they are being honest as far as with finances. That is the biggest fear -- money disappearing."

2:43 p.m. Jim Thompson, a building maintenance technician, has lived in Atlanta for 25 years and midtown for eight. 

“It’s the most transformative election since Maynard,” he said. Thompson, 58, said he had planned to vote for Kwanza Hall based on what he’s done for the district but found Hall’s campaign confusing and lackluster, so Ceasar Mitchell is his “plan B” candidate. 

“They are all smart people,” he said of the crowded field of candidates. But many brought baggage, he said. Thompson is suspicious of Peter Aman’s ties to Bain, and Cathy Woolard’s lobbying connections. 

“It’s not so much that Keisha (Lance Bottoms) is a Reed acolyte, it’s that she’s another centrist democrat,” Thompson said. He was offended by her handling of the Turner Field deal in particular, when she seemed to put the economic benefit to the city over neighborhood concerns. 

In general, Thompson was very critical of the Reed administration for spending public money on stadiums that “could have went to neighborhoods and the city.” 

“Reed really benefitted because capitalism came back into the city while he was in office,” he said. “There’s a lot he did, but there’s a lot he didn’t do.”Asked whether it matters if Atlanta is led by a black or white mayor, Thompson, who is black, paused. 

“That’s a hard one. It matters, but the urbanist ideology matters more,” he said. That is, protecting public space, completing the Beltline and expanding transit while also addressing the inequality that Thompson said has plagued the city for as long as he’s lived here.

2:22 p.m. Not all of Tuesday's races were overly contentious. 

Candidates for the two open Norcross city council seats say "We're all friends."

The four candidates for Norcross' two open city council seats (Hoyt Hutcheson and Chuck Paul vying for one, Thad Thompson and Daniel Watch for the other) spent a chunk of the afternoon waving signs together near City Hall.

"We're all friends," Paul said. 

Hutcheson said that showed a lot about his city. 

"We're a good city," he said. "I"m glad to see these young men, and this old man, step up and give back to their city."

2:11 p.m. Tuesday is both Election Day and Clint Billingsley's birthday and he celebrated turning 49 by securing a huge Mary Norwood sign in front of Ten, the Midtown restaurant of which he is a partner.

Clint Billingsley believes Mary Norwood "is going to take Atlanta into the future" if she becomes mayor.

"Midtown is kind of becoming a more upscale place to be. There are lots of new people are moving in," he said. "You want to maintain the same fabric of where you're at."

Norwood strikes him as a leader who will work with various community stakeholders.

"We think she is going to take Atlanta into the future," he said. "We can all work together and make Atlanta a better place."

Several Keisha Lance Bottoms supporters hoisted signs and chanted their support just a few feet away, but everyone happily coexisted.

"I think it's been kind of mild," he said of the campaign season. "Mary doesn't seem very combative. She doesn't seem to be your typical politician. I think that's nice. Politics in America seem really divisive. They don't have to be."

2:03 p.m. Dan Clancy, 63, has lived in Norcross for more than a decade. He said he researched the candidates for both of the city’s open council seats before voting and that, while he felt it important to cast his ballot regardless, one candidate’s message spoke to him.

“We have another half of Norcross it seems nobody thinks about,” Clancy said. 

The city, which is deeply diverse both racially and socioeconomically, elected Gwinnett County’s first-ever black mayor on Tuesday. Craig Newton, a former city councilman, was unopposed in the race to replace outgoing Mayor Bucky Johnson.

1:24 p.m. Mayoral candidate Ceasar Mitchell voted with his family.

Mayoral candidate Ceasar Mitchell with Czarya, 5, baby Ceasar III, 18 weeks, wife Dr. Tiffany Mitchell and Canon, 6, after voting on Tuesday morning. Photo: Nick Nelson

1:14 p.m. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed posted the following to his Twitter account, saying he voted for Keisha Lance Bottoms:

1:04 p.m. Rebecca Kumar is a Morehouse professor who lives in Edgewood. She voted Tuesday in East Atlanta at First Iconium Baptist Church on Moreland Avenue. 

Rebecca Kumar has lived in Atlanta for 11 years.

She has lived in Atlanta for 11 years and says she cares about fair housing and education. She attended a couple of the mayoral debates. Kumar voted for Vincent Fort. She said he was the “most compelling” candidate. She was a Bernie supporter and said Fort “really spoke to carrying the torch that Bernie Sanders had, but on a local level.” 

On the issue of race, she says it’s definitely a factor. “It’s great we have so many candidates of color. That’s what makes it such a challenging election.”

12:38 p.m. Lolita Lumpkin, 47, is a mom of five and grandmother of eight, two of whom she is raising. 

Not surprisingly, issues involving kids are important to her this campaign season."We are losing our youths," she said. She'd like to see more after school programs for young people to keep them off the streets. She's interested in the physical condition of Atlanta's streets as well as their safety.

"Please let them fix the streets, especially on the west side," said Lumpkin, who lives in that area and works for a uniform supply company.

Ceasar Mitchell is her choice for mayor because she believes he would be best for Atlanta's communities. The tenor of the race hasn't struck her as overly negative but the ballot seems overly crowded, she said.

“All these people - who are they?" she said, referring to the long list of mayoral hopefuls.

Regardless of the outcome, Lumpkin would like Atlanta, with its booming filming industry, take care of its homeless population with both shelter and services.

The closing of the Peachtree-Pine shelter, that tore me up. We have too much money, with all these studios, for anyone to live on the street

12:24 p.m. Kaneka Ramsey said race is especially relevant in Atlanta’s election for mayor because of increased tensions nationwide that she blames in part on President Donald Trump.

“With the current White Hosue administration, race is top of mind, more than it was previously,” said Ramsey, who works in the financial industry, after voting at Israel Baptist Church in Kirkwood. “Atlanta’s large African-American population doesn’t want to move backward. They want someone in office who shares thier beliefs.”

Ramsey said she wants to elect candidates who will support the poor and middle class by mitigating the negative affects of gentrification.“Change is good, but we have to make sure we’re taking care of those who are less fortunate,” she said.

12:16 p.m. Victor Beasley said he supported candidates who will expand MARTA in the city of Atlanta.“The city is growing rapidly, and I don’t see where city officials are changing with it by expanding MARTA,” said Beasley, who works in health care, after voting Israel Baptist Church in Kirkwood. “We need more public transportation.”In the race for Atlanta mayor, he said race was among the reasons that makes a difference.“Let’s be honest – it’s one of the factors,” Beasley said. “Race is a deep question that’s hard to discuss.”

Noon: Jordan Harrison, Nashirah Al-Mahdi and Giavanni Flowers carried signs to show  their support for Atlanta mayoral candidate Keisha Lance Bottoms from their perch at the corner of Perry Boulevard and Hollywood Road. 

"She's very family-oriented," Flowers said, explaining her support for Bottoms, mom of four.

"She's very involved in her community," Harrison added.

11:53 a.m.  Northwest Library at Scotts Crossing in Atlanta is a polling place, so no campaigning can take place on the premises. 

There's plenty going on across the street. Reginald Mundy is carrying a Ceasar Mitchell sign bigger than he is. He crossed the street just as a breeze picked up, gliding like a clipper ship.

Reginald Mundy is carrying a sign for Ceasar Mitchell for mayor in the Atlanta race.

"He's a good guy," Mundy said of his candidate. "I think he's going to do the job."Stanley Winston and Kevin Beedles, from left, support Mitchell because they think his policies will benefit college students.

11:44 a.m. Ernestine Butts and Charlie Wright are manning the street corners on opposite sides of the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Fairburn Road, both hoisting Mary Norwood campaign signs. 

"I know her from way back," said Butts, seated in the shade. "I think it's time for a change."Wright has been keeping an eye on his campaign partner dashing across the street periodically to make sure she had plenty of bottled water. 

His corner was a bright, sunny one and he showed his support and dance moves at the same time.Both of them cited a laundry list of issues to explain why they decided to spend the day campaigning.

"Make it a safer place for the kids," Wright said, listing his top priority. "I really hope that's what she's going to do. And get rid of all these criminals."

Butts said crime was a key priority for her as well. She ticked off a slew of others: "Homelessness, wages, schools... so many."

Charlie Wright a shows his support in Atlanta today/

11:12 a.m. Potholes were a major factor in getting Candace Colclough out to vote Tuesday in unincorporated *DeKalb County. 

“The streets around her home — including Rockbridge Road, which is currently undergoing a 20-month water main replacement project — are in terrible shape and something has to be done about it, she said.

Of the three tax-related questions on her ballot, Colclough, 37, was most focused on *voting for the measure to raise the county’s tax rate and create a special tax to pay for repaving county roads.*

“Rockbridge is a nightmare,” she said. “I love the county, love my area, but the potholes are tearing up my car.”

Colclough, a corporate manager for Comcast, moved to DeKalb with her family seven years ago from Snellville. “I chose DeKalb on purpose. I wanted my girls to see like-minded teachers … We plan to retire here.”

Most of her neighbors, who are also homeowners, are in favor of the tax increase, Colclough said. But with few voters trickling into her polling place on Tuesday, she hoped enough of them would turn out for it to pass.

“I’m hopeful as a resident about DeKalb,” she said. “I’m not satisfied yet, but with things like this (the SPLOST measure), we’re moving in the right direction.”

11:08 a.m.  Smyrna’s Katherine Carrera, 38, declined to say who she voted for, but she did say she was motivated by her moral convictions.“I get my convictions from the Bible,” she said, citing abortion and traditional marriage as important issues: “Caring for children, born or unborn.”

10:45 a.m.In Smyrna, Carole Chlupacek cast her vote for Jen Jordan in the special election to fill the District 6 state senate seat left by Hunter Hill. 

“There’s been a lot of energy put into this race,” she said, adding that she has been flooded with campaign materials. Chlupacek, who works in real estate, said her top priorities were healthcare reform and gun control, as well as transportation. “Public transportation in Georgia is a big deal,” she said. “I think we need more, especially in this area.”

Polls are open in metro Atlanta as Election Day begins. 

Residents can vote from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. on Election Day, except in the City of Atlanta where the polls will close at 8 p.m.

Any voter who is waiting in line to vote at 7 p.m. (8 p.m. in Atlanta) will be allowed to vote. Peak voting hours are historically from 7 a.m. until 9:30 a.m., 4:30 p.m. until 7 p.m., and during the lunch hour.

Alison Gross weighs in on the mayors race at Grady High School. Video by John Spink/AJC
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